Enthusiasm for file-sharing over the internet seems to have waned since the closure of the Napster music-sharing service in July. There's been a 50 percent drop in usage since then, according to a Jupiter report released yesterday.

Napster remains the most popular music destination, said Jupiter analyst Mark Mulligan, despite the fact it has not been operating since July due to continuing copyright-based legal proceedings, and despite the availability of competing file-sharing services. So Napster's brand lives on in infamy, but can no longer deliver the goods.

Based on the number of hits on the Napster site and the people who use the application to manage their own, already-stored music collections, the figures are "testament to the strength of the Napster brand," he said, and to the way it expanded from its initial "college kid and techie" audience to become mainstream.

Other sites cannot compete in terms of content or ease of use and are geared towards a narrower audience, Mulligan said.

Napster has announced it will not relaunch until early next year, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal today. Napster chief Konrad Hilbers said on Monday that the company needs to license more music from major record labels before it can go back online, probably in the first quarter of 2002, the report said.

File sharing is still popular, with 4.5 million people across Europe regularly swapping files, said Jupiter's report. But the user base is now spread across a larger number of websites and services.

In February, 12 peer-to-peer services shared an audience reach of 16 percent in Europe, several of which are now also in some form of legal trouble. By August, 17 sites were sharing an audience reach of 7.6 percent, said the report.